Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Hercegovina: Humanitarian situation and action 2003

A United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP) for Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) in 2003 will not be issued. Despite this, there is a continued need for a Common Humanitarian Action Plan or a humanitarian strategy, modified to reflect the specific situation and transitional environment in BiH. The changing situation within BiH in a number of areas has an impact on issues of humanitarian concern. Firstly, commensurate with the Government's increased capacity and declining interest on behalf of donors, responsibility for humanitarian issues is shifting from the international community to governmental authorities. Secondly, the process of economic and social reform is on-going, albeit slowly; and thirdly, the internal structure of the United Nations system is BiH is changing with the phasing out of UNMIBH, the down-scaling of UNHCR, and the stronger role of the UN Resident Coordinator Group.

This document identifies key issues of humanitarian concern and common humanitarian objectives of UN agencies in BiH, based upon an overview of UN strategy in 2002, an analysis of the current humanitarian situation and needs, within the framework of Governmental and other international organizations strategies and actions. Input to the document was based on consultations with UN agencies and other relevant actors.

Click here for MAP: Administrative areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Humanitarian Situation and progress in implementation of Dayton Peace Agreement

As a result of six years of investment and engagement of the International Community in BiH, notable progress in the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and stabilization of the country is now evident1. Positive developments continued in 2002 with the acceptance of BiH into the Council of Europe, which was seen as an important step towards European integration. This was directly related to efforts to strengthen State institutions. For the first time in BiH history, general elections were successfully carried out by the Government on 5 October 2002. The Government's strategy for poverty reduction (PRSP) is expected to be finalized in the beginning of 2003.

However, there are continuing humanitarian concerns in BiH. UNDP's Human Development Index2 ranks BiH second to last among Stability Pact countries. According to the Living Standards Measurement Study, close to one fifth of the population live below the general poverty line of US$ 2 per person per day. This reality, combined with deteriorated social welfare and health services systems, a lack of progress in economic reforms including the creation of a single economic space, large and inefficient state and entity administrations, the existence of three armies, corruption, an unemployment rate of 16,1 %3, and continued attention to war crimes issues is not an encouraging indicator for the future of BiH. In addition, the existence of more than half a million displaced persons, refugees from FRY and Croatia, and refugees from BiH currently residing abroad4, coupled with the Government's inability to cope with the basic needs of these groups, further complicates the situation. At the same time, donors support has shifted from BiH (and the SEE region), to emergencies in other parts of the world.

Progress on the return process continued at approximately the same pace as in 2001, when almost 100,000 returns were registered. Between January and October 2002 some 91,430 persons returned to their homes, including more than 30,500 refugees from abroad. Out of this total, 86,609 returns were minority returns5. These figures present officially registered returns only. The actual numbers are assumed to be higher as not all returnees register upon return. In contrast to the positive trend on returns, there is a growing assistance gap to cover the needs on the ground, with a priority on reconstruction, and funds to support the families in resuming households and meeting basic needs upon return.

Continuation of the return process has been closely linked to property repossession by DPs and refugees. Consistency in applying the Property Law Implementation Plan (PLIP) during 2000-2002 resulted in a ratio of 64% repossessed property6.

With over half a million refugees and DPs, in addition to widespread socially vulnerable population groups, humanitarian assistance needs in BiH remain high. The number of people requiring humanitarian assistance is expected to increase due to the fragile and deteriorating status of the country's economy and social system. The most vulnerable groups include unemployed DPs, refugees and returnees, FRY refugees and asylum seekers, pensioners, female-headed households, inhabitants of collective centers, women and child victims of trafficking, irregular migrants, and Roma. In terms of the "Post-Dayton" case-load only, some 900,0007 people have returned since the end of the war. However, there are still 377,5008 DPs in BiH (50% of whom have expressed their wish to return), in addition to 28,178 refugees from Croatia and FRY in BiH, and 176,000 refugees from BiH living abroad. Although the number of residents in collective centres has been reduced by 43% during 2002, there are still 3,2269 people living in collective centres. Given the planned scale-down of humanitarian assistance in 2003, it is particularly important to include durable solutions (return or integration in places of the current residence) for these categories in any development initiative deriving from either local authorities or international organizations.

Physical vulnerability is also an important risk factor in BiH with the presence of approximately 1 million landmines, located primarily along the former front lines (or inter-Entity boundary lines). Since 1996, 1,418 persons have been registered as mine victims, including 409 returnees and DPs10, 34% of whom died of their injuries. Although the process of mine clearance has been relatively slow, significant progress in mine action has been made in 2002. The development and adoption of a new law on de-mining was followed by formulation of a 10 year National De-miming Strategy with funding partly ensured through the BiH Government. In addition, the process of combining the three Mine Action Centres (MACs) into one has been concluded in 2002.

With the country serving as one of the main routes for irregular migrants trying to reach Western Europe and for criminal human trafficking, migration issues continue to remain high on the International Community's agenda. Continued abuses of the rights of women and children, often resulting in the break-up of family units and related displacement, as a result of lingering war scars and the lack of a legal protection framework, is also a priority concern. The slow development of a properly functioning police and judiciary only contributes to a lack of progress in these areas.

The UN in 2002

During 2002 UN agencies continued to work with the State and Entity Governments, civil society and the international community - resources permitting - in addressing humanitarian issues. Agencies worked towards the two operational goals in the CAP; namely providing relief and assistance to the targeted groups and enhancing peace and stability. Obstacles to achieving the full implementation of CAP programmes were related to both funding and practical issues. In terms of funding, as of 30 September 2002, only 40% of funding against the 2002 CAP requirements of US$ 46,56 million was received. Other constraints to implementation included obstructions to the return process by local authorities, human rights abuses, and insufficient law and order.

Insufficient funding has resulted in prioritisation and scaling down of programmes, and reduction in the number of beneficiaries that receive assistance. However, implementation of CAP programmes, combined with action of the Government and other international organizations, contributed to achieving the goals stated in CAP 2002. For example, UN agencies worked towards the continuation of the return process, increased property repossession, provision of legal aid, distribution of food and material assistance, support to the Government in the health and education sectors, the promotion of human rights, and progress in the mine action sector.

Scenario for 2003

According to preliminary results from the 5 October 2002 elections, nationalistic parties gained majorities in both entities and state institutions. This could be interpreted as a step backwards in the process of BiH's democratization. However, the political and security situation is not expected to change or deteriorate significantly due to the continued large-scale engagement of the International Community, including the presence of 12,000 SFOR/NATO troops. Obstacles to political and institutional integration by nationalist leaders will continue to have a negative effect on economic, social and health sector reform. While the number of socially vulnerable groups is expected to increase due to the fragile economy, the capacity of public institutions to provide the assistance will be insufficient. As a result, the country will continue to be dependent on external assistance.

The International Community will remain committed to the full implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, with a focus on further democratization, stabilization and European integration. UN agencies will work to remove overlaps in programming through improved cooperation, and will continue the transfer of responsibilities to local institutions. UNMIBH will phase out by end 2003 and its main activities will be taken-over by the European Union police force. Most of the humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR, will scale-down their activities and presence, and at the same time donor support to humanitarian action will decline further.

The return process is expected to continue at the same rate as 2001 and 2002, and the bulk of remaining DPs and refugees who wish to return to their homes should be able to do so by the end 2003. At the same time more DPs and refugees are expected to decide whether or not to return to their places of origin in 2003. Pending the removal of administrative and reintegration obstacles in Croatia, cross-border returns of Croatian-Serb refugees to Croatia are expected to continue slowly. As an integral part of the return process, the implementation of PLIP will continue throughout 2003. Lastly, the number of residents in collective centres is expected to be reduced significantly.

Capacities and complementarity with other actors

With notable progress in the stabilization of BiH over the last few years, the provision of humanitarian assistance has gradually decreased, as well as the presence and assistance programmes of UN agencies. UNMIBH will complete its mandate by the end of 2002, to be replaced by a much smaller European Union police force in 2003 that will mainly monitor the work of the recently restructured police force. In line with its exit strategy, UNHCR, the lead agency for implementation of Annex 7 of the DPA, will also reduce its activities and will gradually transfer responsibilities for issues related to returnee movements to local authorities. OHR and OSCE will maintain a relatively high field presence. However, the closure of some UNHCR field offices is expected to create gaps in terms of protection, monitoring and information dissemination. Efforts to bridge the gap are being made, such as engaging local authorities to take up this responsibility. In addition, the Resident Coordinator (RC) system has been well established and the UN Country Team has become more involved in dealing with continuing humanitarian needs. To illustrate this, an OCHA officer has moved to the RC office to assist with humanitarian issues within broader development initiatives.

Other international organizations, including OHR, OSCE, Council of Europe, SFOR, the donor community, the WB and NGOs, will continue to support the implementation of the Dayton Agreement within their specific mandates, increasingly focusing on developmental activities. The High Representative consults with the senior representatives of the International Community on a weekly basis in the Board of Principals meetings. This central coordination body serves as a forum for reviewing and deciding on all policy issues affecting the implementation of the Dayton Agreement. The Return and Reconstruction Task Force (RRTF) continues to be an effective forum for deciding regional and local priorities and for matching local needs to donor support. UN agencies participate actively in the two coordinating mechanisms to ensure that their plans and activities are compatible with those of other international organizations.

An important development in 2002 was the strengthening of the State institutions and increased cooperation with the International Community with the common goal of creating self-sustainable local institutions and European integration. In this process, the Government is supported by the UN and other international organizations to gradually assume more additional responsibility for the country's future. In this light, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Process (PRSP) will be the first comprehensive economic strategy document produced by BiH authorities. The UN and affiliated agencies actively participate in this process.

Objectives for 2003

Given the wide scale changes within the humanitarian field, especially in terms of reduced funding and actors, in 2003 UN agencies will concentrate efforts on medium-term goals of the wider International Community; namely, to include the consolidation of institutions including the rule of law, economic reforms and completed return process. Within this framework, the main objective of UN agencies for 2003 is:

  • Advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable groups with a focus on the prevention of human rights abuse

Humanitarian Priorities for 2003

In order to consolidate the gains made over the last few years, and with current limited capacities, the UN Country Team has agreed that the main areas of activity should focus on:

  • Supporting sustainable returns

Full implementation of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Agreement - the return of DPs and refugees - will largely depend on conditions in areas of minority return. Conditions that would satisfy the basic needs of returnees have still not been created due to a combination of political, economic and social problems as well as human rights abuses. While positive developments in the property repossession process are encouraging, they do not guarantee sustainable returns. Obstacles to return include, in particular, employment discrimination, and the lack of equal access to education, health, pensions and social welfare systems. Although the attitude of local authorities towards return issues has changed positively in 2002, including the provision of limited material assistance to return communities by local authorities for the first time, the goal of supporting sustainable returns still requires the continued external assistance. UN agencies, in cooperation with other international organizations, will continue to implement programmes that contribute to this process. While limited humanitarian aid will continue to be provided to targeted families, the focus will be on medium and longer term initiatives, including programmes that encourage the involvement of returnees in municipal development and seek to eliminate existing obstacles to returns. Programmes will vary from multi-sectoral and area-based initiatives, support to return of minority professionals (police, school, health, judiciary), support to local integration initiatives, programmes focusing on youth and children to monitoring returns, identifying the gaps in assistance and priority areas of intervention, while advocating for rights-based approaches. At the same time UNHCR will intensify its efforts to encourage UN and other development agencies to undertake longer-term development initiatives in return areas. Agencies will also support cross-border returns - to Croatia and FRY - as an important element of the overall return process. These activities will be coordinated with the Government, local NGOs and international organizations in order to maximize the impact of UN support to BiH's stability at a time when international assistance is down-sizing.

  • Support capacity building of local institutions

With the significant reduction in humanitarian assistance programmes by the end 2003, it is crucial that the Government takes over this responsibility as soon as possible in order to avoid a return to a critical humanitarian situation. The UN Country Team will continue to work with local authorities to increase their capacities and capabilities for coping with the basic humanitarian and social needs of the vulnerable populations. Activities will cover all relevant sectors (see Annex) with a focus on the cross-cutting issue of human rights. The Government is often impeded by a lack of sufficient funding in order to be able to implement planned reforms and activities. The UN will not be in position to contribute to the resolution of this problem.

Cooperation will continue with the State Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees on development of the legal framework and asylum-related issues. The Ministry and UN agencies have also defined a programme that aims to support Government structures to utilize more effective and efficient mechanisms of policy setting and project implementation in the return sector. A pilot project will be implemented in 2003 with the support of EC. UNHCR will support Legal Aid and Information Centres network, which provide legal assistance to DPs and refugees, in establishing itself as a national NGO. Agencies will also support the Government in developing the health sector, the rule of law, promoting and protecting children's and women's rights, anti-trafficking activities, mine action. Local NGOs which are expected to be self-sustainable in the future will also be supported. UN agencies will continue to contribute to poverty reduction in BiH by cooperating with the Government in finalizing the PRSP. Also, defining the country-specific Millennium Development Goals and incorporating them into the Government's transitional and development strategies will be high priorities during 2003.


1 See CAP 2002 and CAP 2002 Mid-Year Report

2 According to the Human Development Index contained in UNDP's National Human Development Report 2002, Moldova ranks lowest with 0,699, followed by BiH at 0,718. Slovenia has the highest HDI, 0,874.

3 According to the Living Standard Measurements Study (LSMS), 2002. This figure is defined by ILO and represents the percentage of the workforce with little or no access to regular income generating activity.

4 According to UNHCR's statistics of 31 October 2002

5 According to UNHCR's statistics of 31 October 2002

6 According to PLIP statistics, as of 31 October 2002. Implementation ratios for Federation of BiH, Republika Srpska and Brcko District, respectively, were 68%, 57% and 70%.

7 According to UNHCR statistics, as of 31 October 2002

8 According to UNHCR statistics, as of 31 October 2002

9 At the beginning of the year there were 5,639 people living in collective centres. As of 31 October, 3,226 people were accommodated in 47 collective centres according to UNHCR statistics

10 According to UNHCR statistics, as of 31 October 2002

ANNEX - Summary of Humanitarian Action:
Planned Programming
Protection, Human Rights, Rule of Law(OHCHR, UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF, IOM, UNDP, NGO partners, Government)

Improve conditions for sustainable returns and for further democratisation of BiH.

Women and Childrens' rights

Sustainability of minority returns;
Access to legal and protection services;
Legislative implementation of international human rights obligations;
Capacity of local institutions and NGOs to provide child protection;
Anti-trafficking (implementation of national plan of action, capacity building of Government, training);
Confidence building;
Child participation;
Repatriation of Croatian-Serb refugees in BiH;
Provision of protection and material assistance to FRY asylum seekers.
Property repossession.
Support for minority returns (especially of professionals such as judges, prosecutors, police officers, teachers, health workers, including cross-border returns);
Technical assistance to Government and civil society;
Rights-based assessments to measure protection/promotion of rights in non-discriminatory manner;
Provision of policy and training in the areas of child protection;
Support to specially vulnerable groups including refugees from Croatia and FRY, asylum seekers, single headed female households and families of the missing;
Continuation of UNHCR's Quick Support Fund (QSF) Programme and Legal Aid Centres network;
Support to PLIP implementation;
Early warning
Insufficient local resources for implementation of programmes;
Increased cooperation with local NGOs as well as support to capacity building and self-sustainability of the NGOs required;
Lack of coordination between Government and IC.
Economic Recovery, Infrastructure, Community Projects
(UNDP, UNHCR, OHCHR, IOM, UNV, Government)

Support sustainable returns by cooperation with local authorities in the process of economic and social reforms, and by addressing the needs in return areas and limited reconstruction programmes.

Economic reforms (creating conditions for employment, foreign investments);
Reconstruction in return areas;
Capacity building of local institutions and civil society;
Increase of micro-credit initiatives for both urban and rural development;
Youth programmes
Ensure that Millennium Development Goals are incorporated in Government PRSP;
Support to Government in management and coordination of development resources;
Area based initiatives, including implementation of Srebrenica Region Recovery Programme;
Integration of human rights in poverty reduction strategies;
Municipal assessments of economic/social rights;
Support to Government in Information and Communications Technology for development;
Fair employment audits with OSCE;
Reintegration of former soldiers into civilian work force (some 7,000);
Other main actors and counterparts in this sector are WB, OSCE and OHR).
EC Local Economic Development (2003-2005);
Increased involvement of Government.
Lack of funds for reconstruction in return areas.
Social Services
(WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, Entity Governments)

Support to policy development and capacity building of local institutions

Non-discriminatory access to health and social services;
Health education and health promotion incl. prevention of HIV/AIDS;
Reproductive health promotion and education;
Early Childhood development
Technical support in health system development;
Strengthening of disease prevention programmes;
Support to the health care reform with special emphasis on mental health;
Young people's sexual and reproductive health programme;
Promotion of good child care practices and immunization;
Municipal assessments including access to health and social services
Non-existence of State Ministry for Health;
Insufficient local capacities for implementation of the programmes;
Non-existence of youth friendly services;
Denial of HIV/AIDS risks

Support education reform

Education reform at all levels;
Multicultural schools including equal access to education;
Data on school enrolment ratios;
Promotion of active learning methods and child centre teaching;
Peer education;
Continuation of Shared Modernization Strategy for education system;
Programmes on provision of multicultural schools in return areas;
EFA (education for all) - creation of national forums and national plans of action;
Training of teachers and school managers;
Provision of equipment for child-friendly schools;
Support to Government in implementation of peer education in schools;
Municipal assessments
OSCE's Working Group on Education Access and Non-Discrimination also involves UN agencies;
EFA will involve all stakeholders in education system;
Need for peer education was addressed by young people of BiH
Mine Action
(UNDP, UNICEF, Government, Donors)

Support overall BiH transitional and development agenda including return process

Develop BiH Government policy and technical capacity to execute National Demining Programme;
Develop effective mine risk awareness education programme
Advisory and technical assistance including donor funds for operational expenditures of BiH Demining Commission and BiH Demining Centre;
Technical guidance on mine risk education, school-based mine awareness;
Development of sustainable national mine victims assistance programme
Government in need of limited assistance;
Existing mine awareness initiative no longer has an impact

Provision of technical assistance to local institutions and municipalities

Insufficient capacity for land resources management Support to development of common land management methodology Need for modern technologies


Bosnia and Herzegovina
Consolidated Inter-


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit